I’ve lived in several cities throughout the past three decades, and I’ve lived the African-American community, by choice, in most of them. I continue to find value in the meaningful relationships that exist within my immediate community, and I celebrate the achievements earned and made by individuals and groups (e.g., congregations) within these communities as they exist throughout the nation. There was a period in my life, however, in which I as well as several young black men in my community fell victim to what has now be characterized by psychologists and sociologists as “self-hated.” For example, we would call each other names which did not reflect the brilliance of our ancestors. We would fight or prepare to seriously harm one another over petty issues which did not reflect the visions of generations of African-American leaders who to sought to effectuate a positive change among black people. As teenage black men, we did not recognize our commonalities (e.g., we enjoyed the same social-economic status and we were often lived in single parent households). Instead, we focused on our differences (e.g., our particular streets or schools) and we were prepared to die over these differences. I will be forever indebted to the church, an HBCU (Morehouse College), my family, mentors and close friends who helped to deliver me from self-hated. I received the call to preach while in college, and I’m glad to report that the self-hated was an intense fire that did not consume.
When we read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3, we may also learn about a raging fire that had no power. These three individuals refused to worship an idol of King Nebuchadnezzar; therefore, they were put in a furnace. The guards who put them in the furnace were consumed by the fire; however, the three of them were not harmed. In fact, Daniel 3:25 states that there were four people in the flames. Theologians believe that this fourth person was God or Jesus the Christ. In short, three people were delivered by God from these flames which should have consumed them. The king eventually acknowledged the God that they served.
It is no secret what God can do. What God has done for others, God will do for you. If you happen to find yourself engulfed or about to be engulfed in flames (e.g., political flames, financial flames, familial flames, flames of self-hatred, flames related to your job), I invite you to invite someone in the flames with you (e.g., God or Jesus Christ). I am a witness that there is divine deliverance in the flames. You may be in a fire, but with God, it is a fire that shall not consume.